Pacquiao asset freeze: ‘Below the belt’

Angela Casauay
Lawmakers do not question the BIR for pursuing a case, but for the ill-timed and hasty freeze order– after Pacquiao’s boxing victory and his announcement to help typhoon victims

SPOILER. The announcement to freeze Pacquiao's account was made upon his arrival from a victorious match in Macau. Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers on Wednesday, November 27, slammed the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for its “ill-timed” move to freeze the assets of their colleague, profesional boxer and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao over a pending tax case. 

In a privilege speech on the floor, Northern Samar Representative Emil Ong denounced the tax bureau and urged his colleagues to pass a resolution condemning the action of BIR Commissioner Kim Henares “for picking such an ill time for trying to collect taxes.”

“I’m not questioning, Mr Speaker, the indebtedness or the supposed non-payment of taxes, but I’m questioning only the timing of the Bureau of Internal Revenue as if we cannot wait for a few days for such thing. Why did they have to do that upon his arrival?” Ong said. 

“This humble representation would definitely object to such [treatment toward] our colleague who is not just a boxer but also a member of this House.” 

Senator JV Ejercito, Pacquiao’s friend who watched the match live in Macau, played on the BIR chief’s name as he criticized her for the political harassment against Pacquiao.

Medyo naiinis ako talaga sa timing, of all people, kung saan pa manggagaling, sa pamahalaan pa. Sabi ko, di nga na-knockout ni Rios si Manny Pacquiao, pagdating dito, tini-KO naman ni Henares. Kawawa naman. Political Henaresment ang ginagawa,” Ejercito said. 

(I’m really annoyed with the timing, of all people, it had to come from the government. I said, Manny Pacquiao wasn’t knocked out by Rios, but when he arrived here, he was knocked out by Henares. Poor him. What she’s doing is Political Henaresment.)

Shortly after arriving in the Philippines fresh from his victory over American boxer Brandon Rios in Macau on Tuesday, November 26, Pacquiao issued a statement lamenting that his frozen bank accounts have prevented him from helping Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims.  

The freeze order stemmed from the P2.2 billion tax evasion case filed by the tax bureau against Pacquiao in 2008 and 2009 over his alleged failure to declare his winnings from his matches during those years. 

The boxing icon said he already paid taxes on those earnings in the US, which has a treaty with the Philippines that allows citizens of both countries to avoid double taxation. (READ: Arum: Pacquiao’s tax papers coming soon)

But BIR chief Kim Henares denied any harassment and said that only two bank accounts containing a total of P1.1 million were garnished. 

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said the BIR “doused cold water on Pacquiao’s victory,” which lifted the spirits of Filipinos weeks after the super typhoon slammed central Philippines and left over 5,000 people dead. 

“He gave inspiration to the victims, tapos ganoon (then they do this to him)? Ano ‘yun [What’s that]?” Sotto said. (READ: Pols to Pacquiao: Thanks for lifting Pinoy spirit after Yolanda)

Pacquiao had also vowed to help victims of Typhoon Yolanda, to whom he dedicated his fight. The survivors, who watched a live stream of his fight at evacuation centers, are expecting him to visit and give them assistance. (READ: Haiyan survivors to Pacquiao: Help us)

Meanwhile, members of the House minority took a sober approach. 

House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said his advice to Pacquiao is to get a good accountant and a good lawyer – and find out whether his problems are just stemming from his failure to submit the proper documents. 

“Well, they’re saying that he hasn’t presented the right documents or he hasn’t presented certified true copies. I think in the end this is really documentary requirements more than anything else,” Zamora said.  

“If Congressman Pacquiao wants to talk to anyone of us, then – as you know there a whole lot of lawyers around this table – we’ll be glad to help him. But basically I think it’s documentary more than anything else. In the end I’m not certain that any additional amounts will be due from him,” he added.


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